The 2008 Oscar nominations came out this past week, and for the first time in several years I've actually seen a bunch of the films that got nominated -- three of the five Best Picture nominees, in fact, and I may be able to hit the other two sometime in the next couple weeks. Which means that for probably the first time ever, my favorite movie from a given year might actually win Best Picture (avenging "Pulp Fiction," "Trainspotting," and a bunch of other movies I loved but the Academy ignored in favor of one damn movie or another). Not that you care, but this week's +5 is My Five Favorite Movies Of 2008, not just in terms of cinematic merit (which I'm hardly an expert on) but also in terms of how much I enjoyed watching them (which I pretty much am):
I concur with baby sis on this one -- "Atonement" was one of the most beautifully shot movies I've ever seen, and even in scenes like the ones that take place on Dunkerque, where the goal was not beauty so much as a modern-day interpretation of Dante's Inferno, the film is just staggering. The plot twist is one that I imagine was difficult to translate into a movie, and not having read the book, I'm still not sure how I feel about the way they accomplished that, but still, it's a gorgeous and incredibly well-acted movie.
How's that for a switch? This movie was hilarious, obviously, but at the risk of sounding like a wuss, it also had a sincere heart to it, which is important because even I can't watch two hours of nonstop dick jokes unless I have some confidence that it's, you know, going somewhere. Michael Cera, in particular, needs to get a fricking Oscar of his own somewhere along the line; after this and "Juno," though, I'm a little worried that he's only going to get painfully-awkward-teenager roles from here on out. He may need a psychotic maladjusted school shooter role sometime in the next couple years just to keep things balanced.
3. "Charlie Wilson's War"
Funny, very well-shot, full of hot chicks, fairly accurate in its portrayal of the early to mid-1980s . . . and it doesn't shy away from the downer ending that it kind of had to have. (I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but one of the Foley artists for the final scene at Wilson's condo is a twisted genius.) Comes close to going over-the-top at times but is almost always smart enough to stop just short where other less ably directed films would go tumbling over the precipice with similar subject matter. (Trivia item: Julia Roberts was supposedly four months pregnant when she shot this scene.)
2. "Knocked Up"
Some people have criticized this movie as being a little removed from reality -- the ending, in particular, gets wrapped up a bit too neatly for some -- but I don't think it's that far off, either. And the path that the two main characters take to get to that happy ending rang true to me. Judd Apatow just really gets how guys act and talk, and in particular he gets how we frequently screw things up royally not out of cruelty or vindictiveness but just by being total clods. I also like how even when he makes a movie that revolves around one or two main characters, the supporting cast is given enough to do that it almost feels like an ensemble film. My only caveat is that while this might look like a great date movie, it really isn't. Unless you have no intention of having sex at the end of the night, then it's cool.
1. "No Country For Old Men"
I don't know that I've ever seen a movie that was so faithful to the material from which it was adapted; a few people have made the comment that you could sit in the theatre with Cormac McCarthy's novel and follow along with certain scenes almost word for word. This is a good thing, because the novel is one of the best (if also most heartbreakingly depressing) books I've ever read. Javier Bardem is nightmare-inducingly good as the hired assassin Chigurh, who operates on a moral plane completely removed from what any of us have ever recognized, but the movie is really about the sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones, who's trying to solve a crime and prevent further deaths even as he perceives the moral fabric of society crumbling around him. Just a fantastic movie; if you haven't seen it yet, you've still got time. Go.
Honorable mention: "Transformers," "Juno," and "The Bourne Ultimatum." And an early contestant for the 2009 version of this list: "Cloverfield." Saw it last night and my jaw was just about hanging to the floor by the time it was over; if you're thinking that the "Blair Witch" hand-held camera gimmick is going to result in a grainy, shitty-looking movie with half-assed special effects, you're in for an eye-popping surprise.
And now the Ten:
1. Dimitri from Paris, "Free Ton Style"
2. Underworld, "Second Hand"
3. Thievery Corporation, "Hong Kong Triad"
4. Pet Shop Boys, "Call Me Old-Fashioned"
5. Morrissey, "How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?"
6. Modest Mouse, "Dance Hall"
7. Jimi Hendrix, "Fire"
8. Miles Davis, "Rouge"
9. KRS-One, "The MC"
10. De La Soul, "Buddy"
Let's hear your own Random Tens, as well as the movies from last year you loved -- or hated -- in the comments.